Hollywood producer and talent agent Peter Safran's deal with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) to bring digital entertainment to the Xbox Live system represents a major expansion for both. As the NYT outlines, for Safran, who left his role as president of Hollywood powerhouse Brillstein-Grey Entertainment over two years ago to start his own firm, the agreement gives him a solid foundation to create web-based programming. In Microsoft's case, the arrangement provides a significant shot in the arm to its two-year-old MSN Originals online content production system. (The NYT also brings up Microsoft's ill-fated, $100 million attempt to jumpstart online entertainment programming 10 years ago.)
The Safran Company's first programs should be available by the fall. The shows will be aimed at Xbox's core audience of males aged 14 to 34, with an emphasis on comedy and horror, and average roughly 10 minutes in length. And because Safran is mostly interested in featuring his clients, who have included Sean Combs, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, and Brooke Shields, among others, scripted fare will take precedence over reality shows.
Safran tells the NYT that this is the first of many such digital production and distribution deals the company has in the works. The company chose Microsoft Xbox for its first big step into digital programming because the system "operates at a level outside of what we generally consider web entertainment" - a reference to Xbox's success as a video game platform, though Microsoft also has arrangements with a dozen large movie studios and TV producers including Paramount, *Disney*, Warner Bros. and Turner Broadcasting, *CBS*, and MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA).
By David Kaplan